Subiaco Judge Dismisses Lawsuit against Academy Priest

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock)
May 5, 2005

FORT SMITH - A federal court judge dismissed a lawsuit claiming a Subiaco Academy priest sexually abused a student there in the 1970s, saying the accuser waited too long to file the lawsuit.

In a judgment filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit brought by Joffre Miller of Texas, meaning it cannot be filed again.

Dawson ruled that the suit accusing the Rev. Nicholas Fuhrmann and Subiaco Academy was filed after the statute of limitations had expired. Dawson's ruling did not judge the merits of the accusations against Subiaco Academy and Fuhrmann.

Miller's complaint said he discovered in March 2002 that psychological and other problems he suffered throughout his life were caused by Fuhrmann's abuse, which the lawsuit said occurred from 1976-1979.

Subiaco Academy officials and their attorney have denied the allegations.

Miller's attorney, Lori Watson of Dallas, argued that a 1993 Arkansas law states that if a youth is the victim of sexual abuse but doesn't discover he was abused until he's an adult, he has three years after the discovery to file suit. The lawsuit was filed in March 2005.

Watson said in March that Miller knew he was abused at the time he attended the school.

Dawson wrote in an order dismissing the suit that the statute Miller relied on was not in effect at the time he was at the academy and was not applicable to his case.

The state law in effect at the time said if a youth is the victim of an act for which a civil action could be filed, the person has until three years after he reaches legal adulthood, unless he's insane, to file the action.

That would mean, Dawson wrote, that the latest Miller could have taken was 1983. He also stated it was a long-held principle that once a case is barred by the statute of limitations, it cannot be revived.

Fuhrmann was sued in federal court in 1994 by another Subiaco student who alleged the priest sexually abused him. The case was dismissed later that year when District Judge Jimm Hendren ruled the statute of limitations expired in 1986.


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